A pretty easy walk from Uterga to Puenta la Reina. And lonely. I haven’t seen one other Pilgrim yet. Not one. Even in Pamplona.
I have never walked thru this area when it hasn’t been blazingly hot. The landscape brown to match. But this time it is gorgeous and green.
Only one Albergue in Uterga was open. But nothing in Muruzabal or Obanos. And when I say nothing I mean very few inhabitants, no bars/cafes or stores open. And no Albergues, casa rurales. Nada. It was a ghost town in every town. There were more workers on the highway fixing a drainpipe. It felt weird.
Puenta la Reina had many more people. It’s the largest town on the Camino in this area. I dipped into the first church. The Church of the Crucifix. Except there was no crucifix. It’s the simplest church I have ever entered. A lone, very small primitively carved statue of Mary holding Jesus above the alter.
The large Cathedral next to my casa rural is the exact opposite. But it has the same effect upon me. I cry in these churches. I don’t really know why. I wasn’t raised Catholic. It’s an odd feeling.
After much looking I found a single room with a monk-like, very safe, twin bed and a private bath. Don’t hate me for my luxurious room with a view of the alley, with timbered ceilings so low the architect had to be no more than 5 ft tall. The water pressure alone would endear me to it, but it was the water temperature that was the icing on the cake. Scorching. Glorious!
My plans are already turned upside down. I had it laid out on the train, as I usually do. The first few days would be shorter. Building up over this week. But the universe has other plans. No Albergues or Casa Rurales are open between here and Estella. Ok, there is one but it’s just on the outskirts of Estella with no private rooms. So tomorrow I will be walking 22k in pouring mud rain. But I have all day to do it. And, after just such an effort, I will treat myself to a lovely hotel room, again. And a hearty dinner, which likely dubs me Not a real Pilgrim, but you can tell I could give a rats ass about that title. I’m just happy to be walking the trail. That will have to suffice if I’m stopped by the Camino Police😉 to check on my real Pilgrim-ishness.
This year it seems Albergues in this stretch are opening later. Perhaps because Easter is so late this year. I have no idea. A few told me their construction projects are taking much longer than they anticipated. They hope to be open by mid April instead of the usual March 1st. So instead of there being a bed shortage due to Covid restrictions, it may be because of reformas delays. Believe me, I can relate. And I know mine is an early Camino this far up the Frances.
When you read this I will be wiping water out of my eyes and battling slippery mud, from above and below. Good thing I brought my REI gators to keep water out of my boots. But it will be worth it. A warm, sunny weekend is in store, just as I enter La Rioja. Ciao, for now.